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Are you SURE?: 3 Things I Wish Parents Knew Before Enrolling Their Child in Music Lessons

As a music teacher and former music student myself, I care about helping parents make informed decisions that will not only benefit their child, but also their entire family. While I would absolutely love to say “yes” to every parent who inquires about lessons, I must be honest that private music lessons may not a good fit for every family. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering whether to start private lessons.

1. Music is a discipline.

The first music school I worked at was located in a business park full of a plethora of other activities for families to choose from. Right next door to us was a karate studio, and on the other end of the parking lot was a gymnastics center. This meant that while the school was constantly receiving lesson inquiries, most families were looking for another simple, once-a-week activity to enroll their kids in. 

I wish I could tell parents that though their students take music lessons once a week, the real magic happens at home through consistent, daily practice. Just like you would go to the gym every day for the best results, you will need to put forth regular daily effort to improve your instrumental skills. Your child’s teacher can be the best-educated, most qualified musician around town - but if the only time your kid touches their instrument is during their 30 minute lesson, you will likely not see any noticeable progress in his or her musical skills. Before starting lessons, be sure that your child understands the importance of practicing at home. 

I encourage parents who want to enroll their kids in weekly music lessons more casually to consider group music classes instead - for example, a group piano class or ukulele circle. These types of classes are often taught at a more relaxed pace and are more of a social activity than are one-on-one lessons. They’re also generally offered at a lower price than private lessons.

2. Music is not a low-maintenance activity

If you’re a parent looking for a low-maintenance after-school activity, private music lessons are probably not a good option. Consider the equipment needed for music lessons: method books, a music stand, a tuner… not to mention the instrument itself and any instrument-specific supplies such as reeds, rosin, slide oil, a cleaning cloth, etc. 

“Do we really need this?” one parent asked me when I tried to convince them that their daughter needed a shoulder rest to start learning the violin. They thought I was just trying to “upsell” them at the music store or convince them to buy unnecessary equipment. I compared it to enrolling their kid in a sport such as soccer. Would you send them onto the field without the proper shoes, cleats, and shin guard?  

Some instruments require more equipment than others - clarinets and saxophones, for example, must constantly replace their reeds, and string players must re-string or re-hair their instruments or bows when necessary, which is usually costly. Thankfully, the flute is a relatively low-maintenance instrument. It’s easy to clean, and with the proper care, you should only need to take it into the repair shop once or twice a year for an annual COA - “clean, oil, adjust.”

3. You are your child’s biggest musical ally.

A music teacher only sees your child once a week. However, you as a parent see your child every day, which means you have just as much influence on your young budding musician as your child’s teacher does!  

Do your best to foster a positive learning environment at home. Praise your kids for practicing, and ask them to share what they have been learning about. Even if, like many of my students’ parents, you claim to know nothing about music, you can still show support to your child by encouraging practice and musical exploration. Four years have passed since I finished my musical training, and my mom will still say to me, “I love to hear you practice!” Her comments make practicing my flute more enjoyable,  just as they did when I was 11 years old.

Communicate with your child’s music teacher, too! I personally love it when a parent reaches out to ask about their student’s progress, or to clarify an assignment. It shows me that they are as invested as I am in their child’s musical progress and makes me feel like we’re on the same team. 

In conclusion

Did I scare you off yet? Hopefully not! The goal of this blog post is to remind parents that music lessons are an investment for all parties involved - teacher, student, and parent. With the right amount of support from you as a parent, there is no limit to your child’s musical growth. 

Fellow music teachers, did I miss anything? What would you like parents to consider before starting private lessons with you?

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